Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stables' Tax, who finished third in the 105th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen on December 1 at Aqueduct, will take his next step towards the Kentucky Derby in the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers, slated for Saturday, February 2 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Withers will offer 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points as the second of four races on the New York path to the Derby which also includes the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham on March 9 [offering 50-20-10-5 points] and the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial on April 6, which awards points on a 100-40-20-10 basis.
The Wood could also offer a $1 million purse if any previous Grade or Group 1 winner is declared an official starter in the race.
Trained by Danny Gargan, Tax, a dark bay son of Arch, was claimed for $50,000 out of a winning effort in a 1 1/16-mile maiden event at Keeneland on October 21. In the gelding's only previous start, Tax finished a game second when sprinting 6 1/2-furlongs in a maiden claiming tilt at Churchill Downs.
“He's a well-bred horse and bred to run long. He'd only run the one race going short and I didn't expect him to be a sprinter. He's a big, strong horse,” said Gargan. “On replays, he looked like a good mover, so we took a shot on him.
“When we claimed him, we thought he would be a real good grass horse, but when we started working him on the dirt, he worked really well,” continued Gargan. “So, we decided to give him a shot in the Remsen.”
The talented gelding, who earned a 66 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden score, stepped his number up significantly in the Remsen when taking on the highly-regarded Maximus Mischief at the top of the lane and staying on strong to finish third, earning a 93 Beyer.
“The effort is a little better than it looks because we went after the winner. We tried to win the race and if we would have tried to be second, we could have been second,” said Gargan. “On the turn, we went after the horse that was in front [Maximus Mischief]. That was our game plan, to see if we could eyeball him and beat him. Obviously, he's a really nice horse and a little more seasoned than our horse. We were aggressive and I like being aggressive in a race.”
Tax has breezed three times since the Remsen, including a four-furlong breeze in 49.23 seconds on January 16 on the Belmont Park training track.
“We might work him again on Friday depending on the weather, if not, he'll go Saturday,” said Gargan. “I think he got a lot out of his last race and he's doing really well right now.”
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